Mary I of Scotland

Mary I of Scotland, and Queen Consort of France; better known as Mary, Queen of Scots
Mary I of Scotland, and Queen Consort of France; better known as Mary, Queen of Scots
Scottish Royalty-
House of Stewart

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Mary II
William II

Mary I of Scotland (Mary Stuart, better known as Mary, Queen of Scots; December 8, 1542February 8, 1587) was the Queen of Scots (the monarch of the Kingdom of Scotland) from December 14, 1542 to July 24, 1567 and Queen Consort of France from July 10, 1559 to December 5, 1560. Because of her tragic life, she is probably the best-known Scottish monarch.

Early years

Princess Mary Stuart was born at Linlithgow Palace, Linlithgow, West Lothian, Scotland, on December 8, 1542 to King James V of Scotland and his French wife, Marie de Guise. She was the first member of the royal House of Stuart to use the gallicised spelling Stuart, rather than the earlier Stewart.

During the 14th century reign of Robert II of Scotland, it had been confirmed that the Scottish Crown would only be inherited by males in the line of Robert's children - all sons - who were listed in that parliamentary act. This was done because the legitimacy of Robert's children from his first marriage was questionable. Females and female lines could inherit only after extinction of male lines. All other male lines had died out years before, but the Duke of Albany, a royal cousin, had lived until 1536. Had he not died before James V, Mary would not necessarily have inherited. In this sort of semi-Salic situation, Mary ascended the throne because all other male lines of the royal house had become extinct before the death of Mary's father.

Her father died at the age of thirty, probably from cholera, although his contemporaries believed his death to have been caused by grief over the Scots' humiliating loss to the English at the Battle of Solway Moss. In Falkland Palace, Fife, her father heard of the birth and prophesied, "The devil go with it! It came with a lass, it will pass with a lass!" The Stewart family had gained the Scottish throne through Marjory (daughter of Robert I, the Bruce). James truly believed that Mary marked the end of the Stewarts' reign over Scotland. Instead, through Mary's son, it was the beginning of their reign over both the Kingdom of Scotland and the Kingdom of England. (Mary adopted the French spelling Stuart during her time in France, and she and her descendants stuck with it.)

The six-day-old Mary became Queen of Scots, with James Hamilton, 2nd Earl of Arran, the next in line for the throne, acting as regent (until 1554, when he was succeeded by the Queen's mother, who continued as regent until her own death in 1560). Six months after her birth, in July 1543, the Treaties of Greenwich promised Mary to be married to Edward, son of King Henry VIII of England in 1552, and for their heirs to inherit the Kingdoms of Scotland and England. Two months later, Mary and her mother, who strongly opposed the marriage proposition, went into hiding in Stirling Castle, where preparations were made for Mary's coronation.


When Mary was only nine months old she was crowned Mary, Queen of Scots in the Chapel Royal at Stirling Castle on September 9, 1543. Due to the age of the Queen and the unique ceremony, the coronation was the talk of Europe.

On the day of the coronation Mary was dressed in heavy regal robes in miniature. A crimson velvet mantle, with a train furred with ermine, was fastened around her tiny neck, and a jeweled satin gown, with long hanging sleeves, enveloped the infant, who could sit up but not walk. She was carried by Lord Livingston in solemn procession to the Chapel Royal. Inside, Lord Livingston brought Mary forward to the altar and put her gently in the throne set up there. Then he stood by, holding her to keep her from rolling off.

Quickly, Cardinal David Beaton put the Coronation Oath to her, which Lord Livingston answered for her. Immediately then the Cardinal unfastened her heavy robes and began anointing her with the holy oil on her back, breast, and the palms of her hands. When the chill air struck her, she began to cry. The Earl of Lennox (whose son Henry, Lord Darnley, later became Mary's 2nd husband) brought forward the Sceptre and placed it in her baby hand, and she grasped the heavy shaft. Then the Sword of State was presented by the Earl of Argyll, and the Cardinal performed the ceremony of girding the three-foot sword to the tiny body.

Then, the Earl of Arran carried the Crown. Holding it gently, Cardinal Beaton lowered it onto the child's head, where it rested on a circlet of velvet. The Cardinal steadied the crown and Lord Livingston held her body straight as the Earls of Lennox and Arran kissed her cheek in fealty, followed by the rest of the prelates and peers who knelt before her and, placing their hands on her crown, swore allegiance to her.

Rough wooing

The Treaties of Greenwich fell apart soon after Mary's coronation. The betrothal did not sit well with the Scots, especially since Henry VIII suspiciously tried to change the agreement so that he could possess Mary years before the marriage was to take place. He also wanted them to break their traditional alliance with France. Fearing an uprising among the people, the Scottish Parliament broke off the treaty at the end of the year.

This did not sit well with Henry VIII however, and he began his "rough wooing" designed to impose the marriage to his son on Mary. This consisted of a series of raids on Scottish territory and other such actions. It lasted until June 1551, costing over half a million pounds and many lives. In May of 1544, the English Earl of Hertford (later created Duke of Somerset by Edward VI) arrived in the Firth of Forth hoping to capture Edinburgh and kidnap the infant queen, but Marie de Guise hid her in the secret chambers of Stirling Castle. The French, remaining true to the Auld Alliance, came to the aid of the Scots.

On September 10, 1547, known as "Black Saturday", the Scots suffered a bitter defeat at the Battle of Pinkie Cleugh. Marie de Guise, fearful for her daughter, sent her temporarily to Inchmahome Priory, and turned to the French ambassador Monsieur D'Oysel. The new French King, Henri II, was now proposing to unite France and Scotland by marrying the little Queen to his newborn son, the Dauphin Francois. This seemed to Marie to be the only sensible solution to her troubles. In February 1548, hearing that the English were on their way back, Marie moved her daughter to Dumbarton Castle. The English left a trail of devastation behind once more and seized the strategically located town of Haddington. By June, the much awaited French help had arrived. On July 7, the French Marriage Treaty was signed at a nunnery near Haddington. Mary would be sent to France, where Henri II had offered to guard her and raise her. On August 7, 1548, the French fleet sent by Henri II sailed back to France from Dumbarton carrying the five-year-old Queen of Scots on board.

Life in France

Vivacious, pretty, and clever (according to contemporary accounts), Mary had a promising childhood. With her marriage agreement in place, she was sent to France in 1548, at the age of five, to be brought up for the next ten years at the French court. (She was accompanied by her own little court consisting of two lords, two half brothers, and the "four Maries," four little girls her own age, all named Mary, and the daughters of the noblest families in Scotland: Beaton, Seton, Fleming, and Livingston.)

While in the French court, she was a favourite. She received the best available education, and at the end of her studies, she had mastered French, Latin, Greek, Spanish and Italian in addition to her native Scots. She also learned how to play two instruments and learned prose, horsemanship, falconry, and needlework.

On April 24, 1558 she married the dauphin Francois at Notre Dame de Paris and, on the death of Henry II on July 10, 1559, became Queen Consort of France; her husband became Francois II of France. Under the ordinary laws of succession, Mary was also next in line to the English throne after her cousin, Queen Elizabeth I, who was childless. However, in the eyes of many Catholics Elizabeth was illegitimate, making Mary the true heir. Although the anti-Catholic Act of Settlement would not be passed until 1701, the will of Henry VIII had excluded the Stuarts from succeeding to the English throne. Mary's troubles were still further increased by the Huguenot rising in France, called le tumulte d'Amboise (March 6-17, 1560), making it impossible for the French to succour Mary's side in Scotland. The question of the succession was therefore a real one.

Francois II died on December 5, 1560, and Mary's mother-in-law, Catherine de Medici, became regent for his brother Charles IX. Under the terms of the Treaty of Edinburgh, signed by Mary's representatives on July 6, 1560, following the death of Marie of Guise, France undertook to withdraw troops from Scotland and recognise Elizabeth's right to rule England. The eighteen-year-old Mary, still in France, refused to ratify the treaty.

Return to Scotland

Mary Stuart
Mary Stuart

The young widow returned to Scotland soon after, and arrived in Leith on August 19, 1561. She was still only 18 and, despite her talents, her upbringing had not given her the judgment to cope with the dangerous and complex political situation in the Scotland of the time. Religion had divided the people, and Mary's illegitimate brother, James Stewart, 1st Earl of Moray, was a leader of the Protestant faction. Mary, being a devout Roman Catholic, was regarded with suspicion by many of her subjects as well as by Elizabeth I of England, her father's cousin and the monarch of the neighbouring Protestant country. The Protestant reformer John Knox preached against Mary, condemning her for hearing Mass, dancing, dressing too elaborately, and many other things, real and imagined.

To the disappointment of the Catholic party, however, Mary did not hasten to take up the Catholic cause. She tolerated the newly-established Protestant ascendancy, and kept James Stewart, her Protestant half-brother as her chief advisor. In this, she may have had to acknowledge her lack of effective military power in the face of the Protestant Lords. However she effectively narrowed her options by joining with James in the destruction of Scotland's leading Catholic magnate, Lord Huntly, in 1562.

By 1561, Mary was having second thoughts about the wisdom of having crossed Elizabeth, and attempted to make up the breach by inviting her to visit Scotland. Elizabeth refused, and the bad blood remained between them. Mary then sent William Maitland of Lethington as an ambassador to the English court to put the case for Mary as a potential heir to the throne. Elizabeth's response is said to have included the words, "As for the title of my crown, for my time I think she will not attain it." However, Mary, in her own letter to her maternal uncle Francis, Duke of Guise, reports other things that Maitland told her, including Elizabeth's supposed statement that, "I for my part know none better, nor that my self would prefer to her." Amongst other things, Elizabeth was mindful of the role Parliament would have to play in the matter.

In December 1561, arrangements were made for the two to meet, this time in England, but Elizabeth changed her mind. The meeting had been fixed for York "or another town" in August or September. In July, Elizabeth sent Sir Henry Sidney to call it off, because of the civil war in France. In 1563, Elizabeth made another attempt to neutralise Mary by suggesting she marry Robert Dudley, 1st Earl of Leicester (Henry Sidney's brother-in-law), whom Elizabeth trusted and thought she could control. Dudley, being a Protestant, would have solved a double problem for Elizabeth. She sent an ambassador to tell Mary that, if she would marry someone (as yet unnamed) of Elizabeth's choosing, Elizabeth would "proceed to the inquisition of her right and title to be our next cousin and heir". This proposal was rejected.

At Holyrood Palace on July 29, 1565, Mary unexpectedly married Henry Stuart, Lord Darnley, a descendant of King Henry VII of England and Mary's half-first cousin. This marriage, to a leading Catholic, precipitated Mary's half-brother, the Earl of Moray, to join with other Protestant Lords in open rebellion. Mary set out for Stirling on August 26, 1565 to confront them, returning to Edinburgh to raise more troops the following month. Moray, and the rebellious lords were routed and fled into exile, the decisive military action becoming known as The Chaseabout Raid. The union also infuriated Elizabeth: she felt she should have been asked permission for the marriage to even take place, as Darnley was an English subject. Elizabeth felt threatened by the marriage because, with Darnley's Scottish and English royal blood, any child Mary would bear Darnley would have an extremely strong claim to both Mary's and Elizabeth's thrones (their son James did in fact succeed both queens in their respective realms).

Before long, Mary became pregnant, but Darnley soon became arrogant and demanding, insisting on power to go with his courtesy title of "King". He was jealous of Mary's friendship with her private secretary, David Rizzio, and, in March 1566 Darnley entered into a secret conspiracy with the nobles who had rebelled against Mary in the Chaseabout Raid. On the 9th of March a group of the lords, accompanied by Darnley, murdered Rizzio while he was in conference with the queen at Holyrood Palace. This action was the catalyst for the breakdown of their marriage. Darnley soon changed sides again and betrayed the lords. But on another occasion, he attacked Mary and unsuccessfully attempted to cause her to miscarry their unborn child.

Another image of Mary, dressed in mourning white following the then recent death of her first husband.
Another image of Mary, dressed in mourning white following the then recent death of her first husband.

Following the birth of the heir — the future James I of England and James VI of Scotland — in June 1566, a plot was hatched to remove Darnley, who was already ill (possibly suffering from syphilis). He was recuperating in a house in Edinburgh where Mary visited him frequently, so that it appeared a reconciliation was in prospect. In February 1567, an explosion occurred in the house, and Darnley was found dead in the garden; he appeared to have been strangled. This event, which should have been Mary's salvation, only harmed her reputation. James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, an adventurer who would become her third husband, was generally believed to be guilty of the assassination, and was brought before a mock trial but acquitted. Mary attempted to regain support among her Lords while Bothwell got some of them to sign the Ainslie Tavern Bond in which they agreed to support his claims to marry Mary.

On April 24 Mary visited her son at Stirling for the last time. On her way back to Edinburgh she was abducted, willingly or not, by Bothwell and his men and taken to Dunbar Castle where she may have been raped by him. On May 6 they returned to Edinburgh and on May 15, at Holyrood Palace, Mary and Bothwell were married according to Protestant rites.

The nobility turned against Mary and Bothwell and raised an army against them. Mary and Bothwell confronted the Lords at Carberry Hill on June 15, but there was no battle as Mary agreed to follow the Lords on condition that they let Bothwell go. But the Lords broke their promise and took her to Edinburgh and then imprisoned her in Loch Leven Castle, situated on an island in the middle of Loch Leven. Between July 18 and July 24, 1567, Mary miscarried twins at that castle. On July 24, she was also forced to abdicate the Scottish throne in favour of her one-year-old son James.

Flight to England

Mary in captivity, c.1578
Mary in captivity, c.1578

On May 2, 1568, she escaped from Loch Leven and once again managed to raise a small army. After her army's defeat at the Battle of Langside on May 13, she fled to England three days later, where she was imprisoned by Elizabeth's officers at Carlisle on May 19. During her imprisonment, she famously had the phrase "En ma Fin gît mon Commencement" ("In my end is my beginning") embroidered on her cloth of estate.

After some wrangling over the question of whether Mary should be tried for the murder of Darnley, Elizabeth ordered an inquiry rather than a trial. It was held in York between October 1568 and January 1569. The inquiry was politically influenced — Elizabeth did not wish to convict Mary of murder. Mary refused to acknowledge the power of any court to try her since she was an anointed Queen, and the man ultimately in charge of the prosecution, James Stewart, Earl of Moray, was ruling Scotland in Mary's absence. His chief motive was to keep her out of Scotland and her supporters under control.

The case hinged on the "Casket letters" — eight letters purportedly from Mary to Bothwell, reported by James Douglas, 4th Earl of Morton to have been found in Edinburgh in a silver box engraved with an F (supposedly for Francis II), along with a number of other documents, including the Mary/Bothwell marriage certificate. Mary was not permitted to see them or to speak in her own defense at the tribunal. She refused to offer a written defense unless Elizabeth would guarantee a verdict of not guilty, which Elizabeth would not do.

Although the casket letters were accepted by the inquiry as genuine after a study of the handwriting, and of the information contained therein, and were generally held to be certain proof of guilt if authentic, the inquiry reached the conclusion that nothing was proven — from the start this could have been predicted as the only conclusion that would satisfy Elizabeth. James MacKay comments that one of the stranger 'trials' in legal history ended with no finding of guilt with the result that the accusers went home to Scotland and the accused remained detained in 'protective custody'.

The authenticity of the Casket Letters has been the source of much controversy among historians. The originals have since been lost, and the copies available in various collections do not form a complete set. Mary argued that her handwriting was not difficult to imitate, and it has frequently been suggested either that the letters are complete forgeries, that incriminating passages were inserted before the inquiry, or that the letters were written to Bothwell by some other person. Comparisons of writing style have often concluded that they were not Mary's work.

It is impossible now to prove the case either way. Without them, there would have been no case against Mary, and with hindsight it is difficult to say that any of the major parties involved considered the truth to be a priority. However, it is notable that Lady Antonia Fraser, James MacKay, and John Guy who have written well-respected biographies of Mary come to the same conclusion that they were forged. Guy, in his work My Heart is Not My Own, written in 2005, has actually examined the Elizabethan transcripts of the letters rather than relying upon later printed copies. He points out that the letters are disjointed. He also draws attention to the fact that the French version of one of the letters is bad in its use of language and grammar. Mary was an educated woman who could read, write, and speak French fluently. The construction of one of the letters in French has mistakes that a woman with her understanding would not make.

Another point made by these commentators is that the Casket Letters did not appear until the Conference of York. Mary had been forced to abdicate in 1567 and held capitve for the best part of a year in Scotland. No reference can be found to the letters being used as evidence against Mary during this period. There was every reason for these letters to be made public to support her imprisonment and forced abdication. The originals disappeared after the Conference of York, thus adding to the sense that the letters were probably forged.

Elizabeth considered Mary's designs on the English throne to be a serious threat, and so eighteen years of confinement followed, much of it in Sheffield Castle and Sheffield Manor in the custody of George Talbot, 6th Earl of Shrewsbury and his redoubtable wife Bess of Hardwick, whose daughter Elizabeth Cavendish married Charles Stuart (Darnley's brother) and produced one child, Lady Arabella Stuart. Bothwell was imprisoned in Denmark, became insane, and died in 1578, still in prison. In 1580 Mary's confinement was transferred to Sir Amias Paulet, and she was under his care for the rest of her life.

However, in 1570, Elizabeth was persuaded by representatives of Charles IX of France to promise to help Mary regain her throne. As a pre-condition, she demanded the ratification of the Treaty of Edinburgh, something Mary would still not agree to. Nevertheless, William Cecil, 1st Baron Burghley continued negotiations with Mary on Elizabeth's behalf. The two queens never met in person.

The Ridolfi Plot caused Elizabeth to think again. In 1572, Parliament, with the queen's encouragement, introduced a bill barring Mary from the throne. Elizabeth unexpectedly refused to give it the royal assent. The furthest she ever went was in 1584, when she introduced a document (the "Bond of Association") aimed at preventing any would-be successor from profiting from her murder. It was not legally binding, but was signed by thousands, including Mary herself.


Mary eventually became a liability that Elizabeth could no longer tolerate. Elizabeth did ask Mary's final Custodian Sir Amyulas Paulet if he would contrive some accident to remove Mary. He refused on the grounds that he would not allow such "a stain on his posterity". Mary was implicated in several plots to assassinate Elizabeth, raise the Catholic North of England, and put herself on the throne, possibly with French or Spanish help. Some of Mary's supporters believe that these plots were fabricated.

One of The London Dungeon's exhibitions is about Mary, Queen of Scots
One of The London Dungeon's exhibitions is about Mary, Queen of Scots

Mary was found guilty of treason by a court of about 40 noblemen, including Catholics, after being implicated in the so-called Babington plot, and after having allegedly sanctioned the assassination of Elizabeth. Mary denied the accusation and was spirited in her defence. One of her more memorable comments from her trial was "Remember Gentlemen the Theatre of history is wider than the Realm of England". She drew attention to the fact that she was denied the opportunity of reviewing the evidence or her papers that had been removed from her. She drew attention to the fact that she had been denied access to legal counsel and that she had never been an English subject and thus could not be convicted of treason. The extent to which the plot was created by Sir Francis Walsingham and the English Secret Services will always remain open to conjecture. She was beheaded at Fotheringhay Castle, Northamptonshire on February 8, 1587. She spent the remaining hours of her life in prayer and also writing letters and her will. She expressed a request that her servants should be released. She also requested that she should be buried in France. At her execution she removed a black cloak to reveal a deep red dress - the Liturgical colour of martyrdom in the Catholic Church.

The execution, according to some modern authorities, was badly carried out. It is said to have taken three blows to hack off her head. Since this is the same number required for the same cruel chore leveled against Essex, scholars of these matter have noted that the number was part of a twisted ritual devised to protract the suffering of the victim and satiate the blood lust of the witnesses. For a modern scholarly discussion of these barbarities see the essay in, "Death, the Scaffold and the Stage..." in Christopher Marlowe And English Renaissance Culture (2000).

Various improbable stories about the execution were later circulated. One which is thought to be true is that, when the executioner picked up the severed head to show it to those present, it was discovered that Mary was wearing a wig. The headsman was left holding the wig, while the late queen's head rolled on the floor.

Another well-known execution story concerns a small dog owned by the queen, which is said to have been hiding among her skirts, unseen by the spectators. Following the beheading, the dog rushed out, terrified and covered in blood. It was taken away by her ladies-in-waiting and washed, but it did not survive the shock. The Government was eager to quash any attempts to obtain relics. The Executioners were denied their customary right to select personal items belonging to the condemned and were paid off instead. The executioner's block and many of the items Mary had touched were burned. Her Rosary beads and Prayer Book were one of the few items carried to her execution that can be considered to have survived.

In response to Mary's death, the Spanish Armada sailed to England, where they lost a considerable number of ships and retreated without touching English soil.

Replica of the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots on display at the Museum of Scotland.
Replica of the tomb of Mary Queen of Scots on display at the Museum of Scotland.

Mary's body was embalmed and left unburied at her place of execution for a year after her death. Her remains were placed in a secure lead coffin - thought to be further signs of fear of relic hunting. She was initially buried at Peterborough Cathedral in 1588, but her body was exhumed in 1612 when her son, King James I of England, ordered she be reinterred in Westminster Abbey. It remains there, only thirty feet (9 metres) from the grave of her cousin Elizabeth. In the 19th century her tomb and that of Elizabeth I were opened to try and ascertain where James VI & I was buried. Mary Queen of Scots shares her tomb with at least 40 other descendants. James VI & I was found buried with Henry VII.


Though Mary Stuart has not been canonised by the Catholic Church, many consider her a martyr, and there are relics of her. Her prayer-book was long shown in France; and her apologist published, in an English journal, a sonnet which she was said to have composed, and to have written with her own hand in this book.

A celebrated German actress, Mrs. Hendel-Schutz, who excited admiration by her attitudes, and performed Friedrich Schiller's "Maria" with great applause in several German cities, affirmed that a cross which she wore on her neck was the very same that once belonged to the unfortunate queen.

Relics of this description have never yet been subjected to the proof of their authenticity. But if there is anything which may be reasonably believed to have once been the property of the queen, it is the veil with which she covered her head on the scaffold, after the executioner had wounded the unfortunate victim in the shoulder by a false blow (whether from awkwardness or confusion is uncertain). This veil came into the possession of Sir J.C. Hippisley, who claimed to be descended from the House of Stuart on his mother's side. He had an engraving made from it by Matteo Diottavi, in Rome, 1818, and gave copies to his friends. However, the eagerness with which the executioners burned clothing and the executioners' block may mean that it is not possible to be ever be certain.

The veil is embroidered with gold spangles by (as is said) the queen's own hand, in regular rows crossing each other, so as to form small squares, and edged with a gold border, to which another border has been subsequently joined, in which the following words are embroidered in letters of gold:-

"Velum Serenissimæ Mariæ, Scotiæ et Galliæ Reginæ Martyris, quo induebatur dum ab Heretica ad mortem iniustissimam condemnata fuit. Anno Sal. MDLXXXVI. a nobilissima matrona Anglicana diu conservatum et tandem, donationis ergo Deo, Societati Jesu consecratum."
Maria's personal breviary, which she took with her to the scaffold, is preserved in the Russian National Library of St. Petersburg.
Maria's personal breviary, which she took with her to the scaffold, is preserved in the Russian National Library of St. Petersburg.

On the plate there is an inscription, with a double certificate of its authenticity, which states, that this veil, a family treasure of the expelled house of Stuart, was finally in possession of the last branch of that family, Henry Benedict Stuart, the cardinal of York, who preserved it for many years in his private chapel, among the most precious relics, and at his death bequeathed it to Sir John Hippisley, together with a valuable Plutarch, and a Codex with painted (illuminated) letters, and a gold coin struck in Scotland in the reign of queen Mary.

The plate was specially consecrated by Pope Pius VII in his palace on the Quirinal, April 29, 1818. Hippisley, during a former residence at Rome, had been very intimate with the cardinal of York, and was instrumental in obtaining for him, when he with the other cardinals emigrated to Venice in 1798, a pension of £4,000 a year from King George IV of the United Kingdom, then Prince of Wales. But for the pension, the fugitive cardinal, whose revenues were all seized by the forces of the French Revolution, would have been exposed to the greatest distress.

The cardinal desired to requite this service by the bequest of what he considered so valuable. According to a note on the plate, the veil is eighty-nine English inches long, and forty-three broad, so that it seems to have been rather a kind of shawl or scarf than a veil. Melville in his Memoirs, which Schiller had read, speaks of a handkerchief belonging to the queen, which she gave away before her death, and Schiller founds upon this anecdote the well-known words of the farewell scene, addressed to Hannah Kennedy.

"Accept this handkerchief! with my own hand
For thee I've work'd it in my hours of sadness
And interwoven with my scalding tears:
With this thou'lt bind my eyes."

Mary in popular culture

The two classic film biographies of Mary (neither of them so faithful to history as to get in the way of the story) are the 1936 Mary of Scotland starring Katharine Hepburn and Fredric March and the 1971 Mary, Queen of Scots starring Vanessa Redgrave and Nigel Davenport.

Mary also inspired the opera Maria Stuarda by Donizetti and the play Maria Stuart by Friedrich Schiller (a production of which opened in London's West End in 2005). In Nobel laureate Joseph Brodsky's 20 sonnets to Mary Stuart (in Russian) the poet addresses her as an interlocutor. Equally, she inspired the song "To France" by Mike Oldfield.

Mary's story had been the subject of a number of novels. Recently published novels included: Mary Queen of Scotland and the Isles: A Novel by Margaret George and Royal Road to Fotheringhay: The Story of Mary, Queen of Scots by Jean Plaidy, and she features importantly in The Lymond Chronicles by celebrated historical novelist Dorothy Dunnett. She also plays an important supporting role in the novel La Princesse de Clèves, set during her younger years in France.

In children's literature, novels on Mary, Queen of Scots include: Queen's Own Fool: A Novel of Mary Queen of Scots and from the Royal Diaries series from Scholastic, Mary, Queen of Scots: Queen Without a Country, France, 1553 by Kathryn Lasky.

Some Jacobites call her Mary II of England in addition to her title of Queen of Scots, because they consider Elizabeth I illegitimate. Monty Python's Flying Circus episode 22 featured a skit involving a "BBC radio drama series" titled "Death of Mary, Queen of Scots". It was, basicly, the camera pointing at a radio, while we hear a knock on the door, Mary opening it and then we hear her being violently killed.

American progressive metal band Dream Theater uses a variation of the mark of Mary, Queen of Scots, as their trademark "Majesty" symbol.

The song Sad Song by Lou Reed, featured in the 1973 album Berlin, references Mary in its initial verses.

Staring at my picture book
She looks like Mary, Queen of Scots
She seemed very regal to me
Just goes to show how wrong you can be

The song To France by Mike Oldfield, featured in the 1984 album Discovery, references Mary in its chorus.

Never going to get to France.
Mary, Queen of Chance, will they find you?
Never going to get to France.
Could a new romance ever bind you?

& the song Fotheringay by The Fairport Convention, featured in the 1969 album What We Did on Our Holidays, is the story of Mary's last days in the prison of Fotheringhay Castle.

Her days of precious freedom, forfeited long before"
To live such fruitless years behind a guarded door"
But those days will last no more"
Tomorrow, at this hour, she will be far away"
Much farther than these islands, for the lonely Fotheringay"


Historical biography and analysis

Popular fiction and drama

Preceded by:
James V
Queen of Scots
Succeeded by:
James VI
Monarchs of Scotland (Alba)
Traditional Kings of Picts: (Legendary Kings) | Drest of the 100 Battles | Talorc I | Nechtan I | Drest II | Galan | Drest III | Drest IV | Gartnait I | Cailtram | Talorc II | Drest V | Galam Cennalath | Bruide I | Gartnait II | Nechtan II | Cinioch | Gartnait III | Bruide II | Talorc III | Talorgan I | Gartnait IV | Drest VI | Bruide III | Taran | Bruide IV | Nechtan IV | Drest VII | Alpín I | Óengus I | Bruide V | Cináed II | Alpín II | Talorgan II | Drest VIII | Conall | Caustantín | Óengus II | Drest IX | Eogán | Ferat | Bruide VI | Cináed II | Bruide VII | Drest X
Traditional Kings of Scots: Cináed I | Domnall I | Causantín I | Áed | Eochaid | Giric | Domnall II | Causantín II | Máel Coluim I | Idulb | Dub | Cuilén | Cináed II | Amlaíb | Cináed II | Causantín III | Cináed III | Máel Coluim II | Donnchad I | Mac Bethad | Lulach | Máel Coluim III | Domnall III Bán | Donnchad II | Domnall III Bán | Edgar | Alexander I | David I | Máel Coluim IV | William I | Alexander II | Alexander III | First Interregnum | John | Second Interregnum | Robert I | David II | Edward | David II | Robert II | Robert III | James I | James II | James III | James IV | James V | Mary I | James VI* | Charles I* | The Covenanters | The Protectorate | Charles II* | James VII* | Mary II* | William II* | Anne*
* Also Monarch of Ireland and England


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